This is the eighth in a series reviewing spring football camps in the Pac-12. Today, Washington.
Starters returning – 14 (6 on offense, 8 on defense).
Refresher on 2011 – The promise in a 5-1 start dissolved starting with a 44-point blowout at Stanford, followed later by a three-game losing streak. It all conspired for a 7-5 regular season, capped by a defensively horrific 67-56 loss to Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and Baylor in the Alamo Bowl. QB Keith Price was a revelation, completing 67 percent of his passes for a school-record 33 TDs, while freshman receivers Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams each had six TD passes. But the defense was mostly a disaster, surrendering 453.3 yards a game and 49-percent third-down conversions and ultimately, most of the defensive staff paid for it with their jobs. Coordinator Nick Holt, linebackers coach Mike Cox and secondary coach Jeff Mills were axed, and cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin departed for UCLA.
Coaching changes – UW underwent a massive makeover, with five new hires. Justin Wilcox comes from Tennessee as defensive coordinator, as does Peter Sirmon to coach linebackers. Tosh Lupoi, known as a recruiting demon, was pulled from the Cal staff to coach defensive linemen and Keith Heyward left Oregon State to coach DBs. Eric Kiesau became another Cal expatriate and replaces Doug Nussmeier as offensive coordinator.
Major spring concerns – Adjustment to a new defensive staff, a new 3-4 scheme and improving on a historically bad performance in 2011 . . . learning whether backup QB Derrick Brown could realistically step in if Price gets hurt . . . adjustment to attrition on the offensive line . . . shoring up some questionmarks at linebacker.
Developments – The overriding theme of the spring was a noticeable improvement defensively. The secondary looked better, keyed by safeties Sean Parker and Justin Glenn and CB Desmond Trufant, and the pass rush appeared improved, led by Josh Shirley . . . S Nate Fellner was switched to linebacker and seemed to make an adequate adjustment, while LB John Timu, bulked up by 20 pounds and playing inside now, had a consistent spring . . . The offensive line was a problem, as G Colin Porter announced his retirement because of arthritic shoulders, while Colin Tanigawa sat out as he rehabbed from a knee injury, and Erik Kohler tried to regain strength from an off-season staph infection, getting work near the end of the session. C Drew Schaefer also missed time briefly with a minor knee injury. With the instability, others who did creditable work were James Atoe, Micah Hatchie and Dexter Charles. Reserve OL Siosifa Tufunga sustained a broken hand late in the session . . . RB Bishop Sankey put himself in position to contend to start as the Huskies seek to replace workhorse Chris Polk . . . NT Danny Shelton was slimmed down about 20 pounds to 315 . . . Seferian-Jenkins had a pedestrian spring coming off a winter on the basketball team . . . Huskies appeared to try to increase the use of ex-Bothell High TE Michael Hartvigson in the offense . . . Wilcox’s defense will be a base 3-4 with the ability to convert to a 4-3. Last year’s sacks leader, Shirley, will play more as a standup LB in this scheme . . . QB Brown was unspectacular, albeit improved late in the spring, which appears to leave the door open for the fall arrival of Mercer Island product Jeff Lindquist and Cyler Miles (though Miles is recovering from minor hip surgery) . . . Coach Steve Sarkisian cited early-entrant DL Pio Vatuvei (6-3, 270), originally a committed player to USC, as a possibility to get true-freshman playing time . . . CB Tre Watson, Kennedy High product who went to JC, then started at Central Washington before transferring to UW, emerged as a candidate for fall playing time . . . late in the session, UW conducted a media tour updating the renovation project on Husky Stadium. Some $48.5 million is raised of the goal of $50 million by the September 2013 reopening of the stadium. In mid-June, the south-side seating (which was demolished) is due to begin rising.
Spring game – In front of 11,802 at CenturyLink Field – the Huskies’ 2012 home – the defense dominated, 36-10, with seven sacks in a scoring system rewarding it for touchdowns, stops and turnovers. Both sides were basic, and the offensive line was patchwork. Price was 14 of 28 for 163 yards, but the running game was stuffed – 35 carries for 20 yards.
2012 schedule – After debuting at CenturyLink against San Diego State, Huskies venture to LSU, which is being mentioned again as a national-title threat. First league game is Stanford in Seattle Sept. 27, and that could be a season-definer because the next two are against Pac-12 division favorites Oregon and USC. It looks like a negative that the two UW misses are Arizona State and UCLA, each featuring new coaches. Huskies have five road games in the Pac-12, the last the quirky day-after-Thanksgiving Apple Cup in Pullman.